Several weeks ago I came across a one of Chris Schwarz’s blog posts where one of his reader’s had followed his path in cutting a dovetail joint each day. This struck me as a great idea for my crazy self-challenge of the year. Cutting dovetails by hand is a skill that I’ve wanted to improve for some time, but had only made minimal time to actually practice. As Frank Klausz has said – if you want to be good at cutting dovetails, go cut dovetails.
For the first dovetail of the year, I found a suitable piece of scrap red oak I had about the shop and cut two half pins and a single tail:
A few thoughts on this joint:
- The Lie Nielsen dovetail saw I bought at this past Woodworking in America cuts so much nicer than the crappy $20 big-box store saw I had before. I expected that to be the case and am pleased to have confirmed as much.
- It was nice to use the new bevel gauge that my wife got me for Christmas. I didn’t measure the angle, I just found something pleasing to my eye and marked it on both sides.
- I don’t have a marking gauge. I need a marking gauge. I do have a “Happy Birthday” coupon from Woodcraft burning a hole in my pocket, so this might be the use.
- The fit is decent, but not great. It took more than hand pressure (i.e. my mallet) to snug together.
Some thoughts on this exercise as a whole:
- I will use up this scrap of red oak. While those joints are getting cut, I’ll go buy a board of poplar or pine from the BORG to use as practice stock for the remainder of the exercise.
- I don’t plan on creating a blog post for every day’s joint, but I will establish a separate page on the blog to display all the joints and the occasional thought.
- I’ll move through a progression of single through dovetails, to multiple through dovetails, to half blind dovetails.
- In no discernible pattern, I’ll play around with the size and angle of the pins.
- I started this joint cutting pins first. At some point I’ll cut tails first too. I refuse to engage in a religious debate about this.
- I need to sharpen my chisels.
- My current work-holding options suck for cutting dovetails. I don’t have a bench, so I have to resort to clamping a hand screw clamp to my table saw to do the sawing. I haven’t figured out a good way to hold the piece to chop waste yet. This will have to get remedied.
- I don’t know how long I will run this exercise. At least a month. Maybe longer.
I know I’m just adding to an already lengthy to-do list, but I think it will be worth it in the long term. Thanks for coming along for the ride!